There's lots going on at Internazionale right now. Club owner Massimo Moratti is working hard on a deal that would see him sell the majority of his shares to a wealthy Indonesian businessman, while new manager Walter Mazzarri has his hands full rebuilding the Nerazzurri in his image after a dismal campaign last year under Andrea Stramaccioni.
Both men are working hard to return Inter to the top of Italian football, and, particularly given Mazzarri's record at Napoli, there's every reason to believe he's capable of achieving that task. But like all of football's great clubs, Inter will be judged not only on the backroom work and long-term squad-building of those in charge, but also on the immediate appearance of the team. Inter are an A-list club, but do they have the star power to back up that reputation?
The short answer is no. Looking at the team sheet, it's hard to pick out more than a couple of names who'd get anywhere near the starting XI at one of Europe's elite clubs. Samir Handanovic is a fine keeper, and young players like Mateo Kovacic and Mauro Icardi are certainly promising, but they're far from superstars.
A cynical way of looking at things? Sure, but such is the way of the world. Moratti's reluctance to spend big on rebuilding an ageing squad in recent seasons has fashioned a rod for his own back. There might be vital work going on behind the scenes, and there could well be several future champions in the dressing room, but if success doesn't come fast the fault will be put squarely on the notion that the team lacks world-beaters.
The fact that Marco Andreolli, unwanted by Inter back in 2007 when he was passed off to Roma and then Vicenza and Sassuolo before finding a home at Chievo has now returned to the San Siro, speaks volumes. No disrespect to the centre-back, but it's fair to say he's not Champions League material.
In terms of pure star power, Javier Zanetti might be the genuine one they've got—and he's injured. And 39. The talismanic captain is more than twice the age of some of Serie A's current leading players, and while he'll always have a place at the Nerazzurri, the days of it being at the beating heart of the starting XI are over. For what it's worth, this reporter honestly believes that Zanetti will make a full comeback and play some part in Inter's season, but the folly of building any kind of meaningful squad strategy around a man of his advancing years should be apparent to everyone.
Mazzarri knows Hugo Campagnaro well from their time at Napoli, and the veteran Argentinian will be an important part of the new-look Nerazzurri, but he's 33. And anyone who doesn't have a knowledge of Italian football would struggle to pick him out of a lineup. Similarly, the ex-Parma frontman Ishak Belfodil might excite Serie A fans, but he's an unknown on the world stage.
Esteban Cambiasso, Cristian Chivu, Walter Samuel and Diego Milito are all approaching the end of their careers, and can no longer be considered the world-class players they once were. Along with Rodrigo Palacio, they also form a core of ageing players on whom Inter will have to rely to a large extent—something that went horribly wrong for Stramaccioni when a string of injuries decimated the veteran elements of his starting XI.
The rumour mill hasn't produced too much for Interisti to be excited about either. Marco Boriello is said to be interested in a move to the San Siro from Roma according to Football-Italia, but while the much-travelled forward could be useful as a squad player it's a move unlikely to get pulses racing. It's an indictment of how far Inter have fallen since their Champions League win in 2010 that the rumours linking them to Cesc Fabregas, courtesy of ITA Sport Press (via Eurosport), just seem...far fetched.
So, Mazzarri will start the season with a squad bereft of big names or star power, and in the short term at least, it seems a step down from his role at Napoli. His former employers might have lost Edinson Cavani, but they gained a great deal of cash and have already splashed some of it on Gonzalo Higuain, the sort of player you'd normally expect to be linked to Inter. Moratti could do with making an A-lister signing of his own, if only to relieve some of the pressure and avoid the inevitable flack if the squad under performs.
It's a facile fault to find with a team that is one of the most exciting prospects ahead of the upcoming season. But such is football. Inter are a side with plenty of promise, but for the moment at least, it's one that's very short on stars.